Three questions from the 1964 Freedom Summer
by James Goldberg
A few days ago, my brother made the observation that Americans often remember the parts of the 1960s civil rights movement that focused on greater integration of black people into the larger culture, but pay less attention to what people worked on to build up the black community internally at the same time.
For example, the voter registration efforts in Mississippi in the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 are often cited as an important part of our history. But we might also learn something by remembering the Freedom Schools set up that same summer, which served both to give segregated students access to college-prep curriculum and to encourage conversations about the future of the black community in America.
The Freedom Schools’ citizenship curriculum, for example, was organized around three important questions:
1. What does the majority culture have that we want?
2. What does majority culture have that we don’t want?
3. What do we have that we want to keep?
I think those discussion questions are brilliant, because they give participants the chance to sort through the complicated feelings that come with belonging to a minority culture in a reflective way. The questions give you permission to borrow without assimilating, to critique without wholesale rejecting, and to discuss your own traditions on their terms without having to justify them by majority mindsets and values.
I also think that we as Latter-day Saints today, in any society, would benefit from discussing the same three questions. We are a separate culture within our various majority host cultures, and I think we ought to remember that as we sort out which majority culture values we want to integrate into our culture and which would disrupt something we don’t want to lose.
What does the majority culture have that we want?
What does majority culture have that we don’t want?
What do we have that we want to keep?
Cross posted at Mormon Midrashim